Kent Falls State Park Hike

This past summer, during the college-visit process, I was staying in Connecticut. Luckily, Kent Falls Entranceamid the jumble of college tours and application essays, I was able to get out a few times and relax. On one such day, for a short hike, I went to Kent Falls State Park with my family. The park is very green-like much of Connecticut-and the falls for which the park is named are amazing. In the park, there’s one small trail loop that takes you up around the falls and through a portion of the forest and, of course, there’s the park itself, which is a wide, slightly sloping expanse of grass, perfect for a picnic or game of Frisbee.

We wanted to see the falls from the top, so we took the trail loop up along side the waterfall. The trail is pretty steep, but a large portion of the trail to the Kent Fallsright of the falls is paved, or has steps, so it’s not too hard to hike up. (It’s about a quarter of a mile to the top, and the falls have a vertical height of around 200 feet.) Spaced regularly up the falls are wooden lookouts (great for taking photos) that jut out to the edge of the falls so you can get a bit closer without any dangerous excursions onto the rocks alongside the falls. While the trail and lookouts are regularly maintained, you should probably keep an eye on your children and make sure they don’t try to get close enough Top of the Fallsto touch the water.

 

The park is a great place to relax and the trail is short enough to be doable by people of all ages. On the weekends, there’s a parking fee of $9 for Connecticut cars and $15 for out-of-state cars, however during the week parking is usually free. It’s definitely worth it though for a relaxing hike and great look at the falls!

Backpacking in Los Padres National Forest

A few weeks ago I went backpacking with some friends in Los Padres National Forest. (I’m just writing about it now because I’ve been up in Washington for the past two weeks, the second of which I spent on an awesome 5-day backpacking trip in Mt. Rainier National Park. But more on that later.) We drove into Los Padres National Forest and through Reyes Creek Campground until we came to a stop in a parking area by the Reyes Creek Trailhead. After some final pack adjustments, we set off on the trial!

View from first ridgeWe ascended the trail for about 2.5 miles through brush and low trees to a ridge, stopping along the way to let a 4 foot long rattlesnake cross the trail (we gave it plenty of room), and began a small descent. Upon reaching Upper Reyes Campground, we dropped our packs and had lunch. (And a lot of water, the temperature was in the mid-90’s.) After lunch, we continued on towards Beartrap, our final destination for the day. Over the next ~1.7 miles, we got up over a ridge and then descended through shady trees towards the campground. There is a small creek at the camp (Beartrap Creek) that is there year-round. (We used a Katadyn water filtering pump here to fill up our water bottles and Beartrap Creekreservoirs.) After a dinner of quinoa and chicken, we went to bed.

The second day of our trip we broke camp relatively early in the morning to resume our backpacking. From Beartrap, the trail winded through tall, green trees and big, vibrant plants, crossing small streams intermittently. The air was very cool on this part of the trail and the scenery was beautiful. However, all to soon we were leaving this cool, shady portion of the trail and ascending a high ridge, (great views from the top, by the way) from which we began a descent towards Haddock, another camp. We stopped for a short break there before continuing on towards the next camp, Three Mile. This part was pretty easy, and would probably have been more so if the temperature wasn’t constantly hovering around 100 degrees F. Oh well. We finally arrived at Three Mile, where we broke for lunch.

After an hour or so, we moved on. (At this point I had about a half liter of water left, which certainly helped motivate me onward to a water source.) Luckily, we came across water Pine Mountain Lodge Camppretty soon, right after passing a bush that someone swore they saw a bear cub in. We refilled our water bottles with filtered water from a stagnant pond, and just for good measure, put in a couple of chlorine tablets in to make sure the water was completely safe. The next part of the trail traversed over rolling hills (which were doubly uncomfortable due to the high heat) before finally reaching our final camp for the day, Pine Mountain Lodge. After some cards and a dinner of Mountain House’s freeze dried Lasagna with Meat Sauce (which is very good by the way, probably my favorite of the freeze dried foods), we retired to our tents for the night.

Our final day on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Rec. Trail began with a long ~3 mile descent towards Twin Forks camp, where we stopped for a short rest. Then after resuming, only 0.3 miles down the trail we passed Piedra Blanca camp. From here the trailPiedra Blanca Bluffs was relatively flat and the landscape was mostly occupied by a lot of scraggly bushes and some small trees. However, the trail had one last unpleasant surprise waiting for us. After rounding a bend in the trail, we were confronted with a giant rock formation. We ascended the last steep uphill of the trip and found ourselves on top of a huge rock formation with a huge 360 panoramic view. We rested there for an hour or so and then began our final descent. Eventually we reached the Middle Sespe Trail junction and took a right (Southeast). Soon thereafter, we reached a small dirt road and took another right (Southwest). After a few hundred feet, we came around a bend and emerged by a parking lot, bathroom, and big sign with a map of the trail. (This is the Piedra Blanca Trailhead.) The sight of the cars there to pick us up was very welcome, needless to say.

Map of the area and the TrailThe Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail was great for backpacking and I had a great time on the trip. The area was very beautiful, and the trail was nice. I would only recommend going in lower temperatures, as it would no doubt be a much more enjoyable experience. This trail would be great for a short 2 or 3 day backpacking trip, or even day hikes, if you want to go out and back. If you’re looking for a short backpacking trip in Southern California, take a look at this area!

Have fun on your next trip!

Backpacking in Holcomb Creek, Big Bear

Hi everyone! I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few months. I have been very tied up with school and extracurricular activities. However, I have gone on a great backpacking trip in the time since my last post, so here goes!

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For my trip, I traveled out to Holcomb Creek, in Big Bear (in the San Bernardino Mountains) with a group of friends. All of the cars were parked in an open area of the dirt road we took to get to the trail head. After parking, we traveled down the road a bit until we spotted an opening on the left side of the road. We climbed over a knee-high chain and began our hike.

For the first couple of miles, we trekked up and down some low hills on a trail that paralleled Holcomb Creek itself and a fireroad. The trees at points looked quite burnt, so I assume there was a fire there within the past few months or so. On the left hand side of the trail, Holcomb Creek meandered along. At this point the creek was very small and was largely obscured by giant plants and grasses. These plants seemed to go on forever through the valley and were quite pretty.
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After these first couple of miles, we left the trees and river behind as the trail continued into a desert environment. The trees weren’t numerous and were very scraggly. As the sun rose higher in the sky, we started gaining elevation with steeper inclines and soon stopped for lunch high on a hill, at approximately the halfway point. From here, the hike began going increasingly downhill for a couple more miles, punctuated intermittently with a couple of inclines. The scenery slowly melted into a more forested environment and we encountered the creek again a few times as we hiked alongside it.

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For the last couple of miles, there were only a few inclines, but these were pretty steep, and not that thrilling, probably due to the fact that the trail seemed to be made of sand at this point. Eventually we crossed another fireroad. At this point we encountered some people on dirt bikes and ATV’s. (As a matter of fact, Holcomb Creek Valley is quite popular for these people. When you look up Holcomb Creek on the internet, much of the information is related to ATV usage and trails for ATV’s.)

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As we continued on, we crossed the creek a couple of times in the last mile and a half. Eventually, we reached the campsite. This is a trail campground called Holcomb Crossing. The area is filled with pine trees, but there is still a lot of space to pitch tents. My friend even managed to pitch his tent hammock between a couple of trees!

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I really like this area. There’s a lot of shade, and the creek is right by the campsite. This proved to be a very useful source of water and we were able to set up a couple of gravity filters there. There is also a bountiful amount of small sticks and branches that can be used to build a campfire.

The next day, the trip back was much of the same, although I did almost lose my water bottle. I was climbing over a boulder in the creek to get to the other side, when my bottle fell out of one of the mesh bottle holders on the side of my backpack. I jumped the last couple of feet and made a mad dash through the trees, then jumped from the bank onto a little sand bar in the center of the creek. Luckily the current brought my bottle just within reach and I was able to retrieve it. (And that, folks, is why its important to have everything on your backpack secured tightly!)

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We passed some more people on ATV’s and a group of people driving up a trail of boulders in their trucks. It looked pretty fun! It probably is until the truck flips when it goes over a particularly large boulder. (However, I’m nowhere near close to being knowledgeable in this field and I don’t think that happens often.)

20130609-005228.jpgAfter 6 or so more miles, we reached the cars, and for many, this was a very nice reunion indeed. I had a lot of fun on this trip. I don’t go backpacking a lot, but when I do, it’s a nice break from car camping. Now, some of you are probably interested in some more information on the trail itself.

The hike is approximately 16 miles round trip. It would probably be best to hike the trail in the spring or fall, because in the winter it does snow here and in the summer it can get to be pretty hot. For driving directions, you can go to the following link that REI has: http://www.rei.com/guidepost/detail/california/hiking/holcomb-crossing-trail-camp-loop-backpacking/17129.

For a short, 2 day backpacking trip, this trip would be great. It’s not that difficult of a hike and relatively short. On the other hand, it’s also nice way to get away from work for a small break on the weekend!

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

This campground is very good. Located in San Juan Capistrano, CA, Caspers Wilderness Park has 3 campgrounds with multiple sites (one of these is an equestrian campground) and 2 group campgrounds. There are also quite a lot of trails. When I was camping in East Ridge Trail SignCaspers Wilderness, I stayed with friends on a group site called San Juan Meadow Group Area and hiked the nature loop and the East Ridge Trail.

The East Ridge Trail hike was very beautiful and the panoramic view was amazing. We could see for miles around. The Nature Loop wasn’t as fascinating for me, although the hike itself was pretty good. The plant life seemed dried up and wasn’t that beautiful. However, this is most likely due to the fact that we hiked here in the winter in November and not in the spring or summer. The last time we camped at Caspers Wilderness was in January of the past year.

East Ridge Trail

East Ridge Trail

We hiked into San Juan Meadow Group Area from the Nature Loop and set out to stake our claims on good tenting areas (although all of the camping areas in this group site are relatively flat). At first I was quite surprised at the lack of plant life in the large open field in the center of the group area. The last time I had been to Caspers Wilderness the field was covered in a thick blanket of grass. Again, I attribute this to the time of year. (Winter is never the best time to see a lot of green plant life) Anyway, we set up our tents and then proceeded to explore the area and do some fun activities!

Caspers Wilderness Campground has some good amenities and is an ideal place for camping with children. The amenities of the campground include: a dump station, Tentsbathrooms, picnic tables, fire rings, trash bins, drinkable water, BBQ grills, showers, an amphitheater, a visitors center, and a playground. Firewood is also available. The playground would be a very good play option for children and is fairly big for a campground. The abundance of open space on the big field (or meadow) in the San Juan Meadow Group Area is great for a ton of activities, including frisbee, soccer, football, baseball, or anything else you could think of. We played ultimate frisbee the day after we got there.

That night we had a campfire (admittedly a bit large) and eventually went to bed when it

Frost on a Pot

Frost on a Pot

got too cold to do anything else. The night got even colder and it might have dipped below freezing. (When I woke up it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit). The pots we left out to dry he night before were covered in frost! (Word to the wise here: don’t leave pots or pans out overnight to dry; they could get dirty or wet again with morning dew or frost.)

Caspers Wilderness Park is a great camp for large groups or families with children. I was Giant Campfirevery satisfied with all of the amenities that I used and didn’t have any problems during my stay. My only recommendation for camping at Caspers Wilderness Park is to bring a frisbee or soccer ball or something. If camping in San Juan Meadow, you’ll have a lot more fun this way! Happy camping!

The campground address is: 33401 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

The campground telephone number is: (949) 923-2210

Moro Rock

A few years ago my family and I drove up North to go to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. While we were in Sequoia and consulting a map of the area, we spotted Moro Rock, which is in the Giant Forest Area. Thinking that it would be pretty cool to stand on a rock a few hundred feet above the forest floor, we decided to drive over to the rock. (For those of you who don’t want to drive, a shuttle runs up the road to Moro Rock.)

The road that we took to get to the parking area below the rock is closed in the winter, so people aspiring to summit Moro Rock would have to hike 2 miles to get to the viewpoint on Moro Rock. The fact that it was summer and the road to the bottom of the rock was open agreed very well with my 11-year-old mind (and legs).

After we parked in the lot and walked up to the giant granite rock with bottles in hand, we were greeted with lots and lots of stairs. (around 400, to be specific, and no I did not count them as I hiked up) However, as I learned later, hiking up Moro Rock is not the only way to have fun. If you’re a rock climber, you’ll be pleased to know that 1000 feet of cracks, knobs and the such are available for rock climbing on the West face of the rock. (Climbing is prohibited, though, during peregrine falcon nesting season.)

We continued on our adventure and began the long climb to the viewpoint at the top. Let me tell you, those stairs seemed way over the 400 count. And even though the stairs only go on for 797 feet, going uphill makes it seems like a lot further. Anyway, when we finally got to the top and took in the view, I was struck by the amazing panorama spread out before me. I could see Mt. Whitney and a dozen other peaks, most of the park, and the Great Western Divide. The view was one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen.

Then I set my water bottle on the ground because my hand was tired from holding it. My sister, and I’m sure she didn’t mean to, backed up and hit the bottle with her heel. It took off and rolled over the edge. With an exclamation of surprise I made a futile grab for it, but it was too late. The bottle rolled down the sloping side of the rock and stopped in a crack just a foot or so from the edge, where there was a drop of a couple hundred feet. I stared at it in dismay. Not fully understanding the dangers, I asked if I could get it. Naturally, with an “are you crazy?” look, my mom said no. Then a German guy said in his German accent, “I’ll get it!” He hooked a leg over the rail and other people, seeing what he was about to do, yelled, “NOOOOO!” The German guy stopped and came back, but clearly he would have liked to get it. Oh well, no use risking your life for a bottle, I guess.

We walked down safely and without anymore water bottle incidents, and talked about the amazing view, the hike, and the German guy. Moro Rock is definitely a must see point of interest. If you are ever in Sequoia, and want to see the area from a birds view, or as close to that as you can get, Moro Rock is your go-to location. I love the view from Moro Rock and hope that you might be able to experience it too.

Temescal Canyon Hike

Temescal Canyon is probably my favorite location to hike that is close to my home. There is a lot of lush greenery and beautiful trees occupy space wherever you look. The trails in Temescal are mostly hiking “trails” instead of fireroads, which is a bonus for me as I don’t really feel like I’m hiking as much if I’m on a fireroad. My favorite trail is the one leading past the waterfall to Skull Rock. This so happens to be the same trail that I took this past weekend when I went hiking with some friends.

We all gathered in front of the bathrooms by the parking lot at a table that is under the trees to get together and double-check our gear, and perhaps more important for some, our snacks. I had all of my supplies ready to go in my REI Flash 18 Pack and after everyone arrived and was ready, we were ready to hit the trail.

We walked to the trailhead called “Temescal Canyon Trail” and began our way up the trail, heading for the waterfall and Skull Rock.Hiking along the trail, you’ll see a  preschool and then a little later on, a debris barrier. Behind this barrier is an open grass area with small clusters of oak trees. Families tend to stop in this area for a picnic and to let the kids play around. Continuing past this area, you’ll soon pass a cement platform. I never really know what this platform is for. Is it a stage? A foundation for a house long gone? I don’t know. Maybe you’ll find out.

Anyway, after passing this structure, you’ll hike for a few minutes along a fireroad before once again hiking on a trail. The trail is not that hard to hike on, with a few ups and downs. If you look around, you’ll see tall sycamore, oak, and maple trees growing up around you. In fall, the trees are covered in leaves and are very beautiful. Soon you’ll start heading uphill and gaining more altitude.

After walking through cooling trees and some moments of hot sun, we finally made it to the waterfall. Unfortunately, this is a seasonal waterfall and on the day of our hike, the “waterfall” was more of a “trickle of water that creeps down the rocks”. Usually there isn’t exactly a cascade of roaring water, so I wasn’t that disappointed. Looking around, sitting in the shade are large boulders, shallow ponds, and a few mini waterfalls between the rocks here and there. We unpacked a few snacks and stopped to rest and take a few pictures. Too soon we were ready to be on our way.

After finishing at the waterfall, we crossed the footbridge and continued uphill through the trees towards Skull Rock. Eventually, we came out of the canyon and started hiking in the open on a thin trail called the “Temescal Ridge Trail”. From this trail, you can see big, expensive homes to one side and Los Angeles to the other. On a clear day, it is also possible to see Catalina Island. Since we were short on time, we couldn’t go all of the way to Skull Rock, but having been there myself before, I can tell you about the place. At Skull Rock, leave the trail and scramble up to the side of Skull Rock not visible from the trail. You’ll see a small crawl space in the side of the rock. Crawl through here and you end up sitting in the “eye” of Skull Rock. Let me tell you; it’s really cool. You can then sit there and relax and maybe eat some snacks and drink some water.

Anyway, after turning around, we continued back the way we came until we got to the Temescal Canyon Trail leading back to the waterfall. Instead of taking this trail, we took the trail to the left, “Viewpoint Trail”. This goes up and down for a while before starting to go down in elevation. We walked though the trees and hiked along switchbacks for almost the complete rest of the way back to the trailhead.

We went back to the table we started at and said our goodbyes. After completing one of my favorite hikes, I was happily content. I got a great hike in and got to take some nice pictures (not top-of-the-line pictures, though) If you are ever near Temescal Canyon, I highly recommend adding this hike as a must to your list of To-Do’s.

Hiking in Will Rogers State Historic Park

To stretch our legs and take a short break from daily life, my mom, sister and I decided to go on a hike. We chose Will Rogers State Historic Park as our location of exploration mainly for the convenience of a short drive from home, but also because we like the hikes the park has to offer. Grabbing my camera, water, and some snacks, I left with my mom and sister to hit the trails.

A little background information. Located in the Pacific Palisades, the park, then a ranch, used to be owned by Will Rogers(hence the name “Will Rogers State Historic Park”) and his wife and children. He was a movie star, humorist, radio-show host and cowboy. After his death in 1935, the ranch became a state park. His house is still standing and open to guided tours. But enough with the history and on with the hiking…

Naturally, as soon as we entered Will Rogers, my sister asked to see the horses. (Apparently, some people love horses. What can I say?) We walked across the polo field, where a polo club meets on Sundays to play, and met up with the horses. They were all beautiful chestnut colored horses. My sister stared at them, petted them, and quickly got bored. On to hiking!

Since we were only doing a short hike, we started at Will Roger’s old house and began hiking up to a fireroad past his front yard and to the left. (On the large yard, families usually come to picnic and play with their kids)

The hike up the fireroad is pleasant, but be sure to pack the sunscreen; when the sun is out, you can heat up pretty fast. As you hike up the fireroad, there is a beautiful view of Los Angeles, the Palisades, the beach, and the ocean. On a clear day, one can usually see Catalina Island out in the Pacific Ocean.

After an hour or so of slow hiking, we reached Inspiration Point. By the way, have you ever noticed how many Inspiration Points there are? There must be a rule somewhere that states “thou shalt always have an Inspiration Point on a hike”. Anyway, from this Inspiration Point, you get a whole panoramic view of Los Angeles, laid out before you to take in. Looking around, there’s the city, the ocean, the mountains, and the beachfront, all for you to feast your eyes upon.

After we finished taking in the view and eating some snacks, we continued back down the fireroad. As we walked down, shafts of sunlight streamed through the treeson the side of the road and we saw more horses standing in a large enclosed area by the barn.

The hike we took in Will Rogers State Historic Park may not be that exciting, with deep ravines and dangerous cliffs, but it’s a nice hike to relax on and take in the view. Will Rogers is a nice location and I like to hike there on the weekend. I think that many people would enjoy the hikes the park has to offer.

Anyway, it’s back to the city after a relaxing hike spent in Will Rogers. If you’re ever in Los Angeles or the Palisades, I would recommend paying a visit here. It will be well worth your time. Good hiking!